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Olfaction refers the sense of smell or the process of smelling.1

Here’s a little bit about how the nose and brain are connected:

Our sense of smell is strongly connected to memory:

Smell can trigger strong memories from childhood. Here are some examples I harvested from a post to the Explorations Early Learning Toys Facebook page asking, “What’s your fondest smell from childhood?”:

Almond extract. We rarely baked, but my parents and grandma let me invent recipes to my heart’s content. The almond extract smell was always so powerful! One time I invented a bread like thing, and my mom let me bake it for real. When my grandma came over she didn’t know it was my 5 year old potion invention, took a big bite, and took a few seconds to register that it was mainly baking soda and almond extract. I’ll never forget the moment in between, where she was happily eating it, then BOOM the flavor registered!

Tiffany P.

Freshly cut grass when at my Granny and Grandads and just the smell of their house in general..apple pie in the oven, fairy cakes, roast dinner…it’s interesting how most peoples favourite memories involve grandparents!

Sarah W.

In Montessori school we made acorn pancakes. I talk about it every time I see an acorn!

Alexis J.

There were these markers. I don’t remember what brand or if they were supposed to have a scent but I remember thinking they smelled amazing

Ontee D.

Wet Ones hand wipes in the dispenser. It reminds me of being on vacation with my family when I was a kid. Usually a trip to the mountains, beach, etc.

Jen L.

Putty. My dad was a joiner and used to make and fit window frames. The smell always reminds me of my dad and the best days going to work with him

Rebecca H.M.

Much of the sensory play taking place in early learning settings is touch-centered. Early learning programs should also pay attention to how children experience the world with their noses. This can be done by:

  • Discussing smells (“What smells don’t you like?”)
  • Noticing smells (“I smell something..what do you think it is?”)
  • Introducing new scents (“I brought these daffodils from my yard–want to smell them?”)
  • Comparing smells (“Which smell do you like best–this box of crayons or this puppy?”
  • Paying attention to the settings scent-profile (Does your play space smell like play dough, fresh baked bread, or dirty diapers?)

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I'm an early learning speaker, podcaster, content creator, author, and founder of Playvolution HQ and Explorations Early Learning.


  1. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/olfaction